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Widespread Drought in Europe – impacts on crops, efficacy trials and plant protection products

Europe is in the midst of its worst drought in over 500 years, with almost two thirds of the continent affected according to the latest JRC Global Drought Observatory Report for August 2022.

The extremely dry conditions are having numerous negative impacts, reducing crop yields and quality, and also creating conditions for some insect crop pests to flourish.  In the report it is estimated that maize, soybean, and sunflowers will be most affected, with yield reductions estimated to be -16%, -15%, and -12% respectively, relative to 5-year averages.

Here in the UK drought conditions are expected to have a significant impact on the quality of vegetables at harvest – with supermarkets being urged to accept misshapen vegetables that would, in other years, have been graded out.

Of course these impacts of drought will also be felt across efficacy field trial programmes this season. Study directors and field trialists have no doubt mitigated against some of the effects through irrigation (where allowed) and additional assessments. Well designed (and positioned) trials will still allow for treatment effects to be observed even where plant vigour is reduced across the whole trial, or insect pest pressure increased. Indeed, there may also be opportunities this season to assess product performance under drought conditions which, given the potential impacts of a warming climate across Europe, will undoubtedly be useful information towards future product development. 

Nonetheless, trial results from the 2022 season will need to be treated with additional caution. For example, dry weather can have adverse effects on the phytotoxicity of some herbicides. This may lead to phytotoxic affects being observed in trials where they wouldn’t in a typical year. Conversely susceptibility and selectivity of weed species can be impacted by these weather conditions, and may provide false indications of the effectiveness of some herbicides. Where possible we would advise repeat trials in 2023 to ensure phytoxicity, selectivity and effectiveness are accurately assessed during a typical year outside of drought conditions to gain the best chances of a successful product registration.

The complex impacts of drought conditions on crops, their pests and the efficacy of plant protection products are the subject of much ongoing research, but it is clear that there is still lots to learn. Ensuring that plant protection products remain effective under all conditions is vital to food security into the future.

Read more here:

Drought Article RHS


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